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Experiencing Pain? Virtual Reality May Help Relieve It In A Fun and Exciting Way

Apr 06, 2016 10:40 AM EDT
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A video game enthusiast plays using a virtual reality headset at the Eurogamer Expo in London. A recent study showed that VR can actually help relieve pain.
(Photo : Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Over-the-counter painkillers are of great help in reducing pain, but with the latest technological advances, these analgesics are now faced with a serious competitor.

According to a new study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, playing a virtual reality game with accompanying sounds can help alleviate the experience of pain.

Virtual reality is defined by the Advanced Supercomputing Division of NASA as having "the effect of concrete existence without actually having a concrete existence."

27 healthy participants were asked to play a virtual reality game while their free hand was submerged in cold water.

The game used in the study is a first-person racing game that was set in a futuristic world.

They played the game with a laptop, a head-mounted display (HMD) and noise-cancelling headphones.

The researchers then measured the individual pain tolerance of each participant using the time they have their hand in the cold water before withdrawing.

After taking the baseline measure of pain tolerance for each participant, the researchers repeated the whole process in three conditions: with sound only, with HMD only and with both sound and HDM.

The researchers discovered that the combination of the corresponding in-game sound and display in the third condition recorded the highest level of pain tolerance.

The study also said that playing music or just watching images can serve as good pain relievers.

CNN reported that psychology plays a significant role in how we feel both acute and chronic pain--and these painful sensations can be influenced by what we think and feel.

The researchers urged for further studies to determine if there is a correlation between pain tolerance and the nature of sound. Future studies can explore if there are certain categories of sound that are more effective distractions for pain than others.

For now, this research just becomes all the more reason to get immersed in that virtual reality game--or at least participate in music and arts to ease our pain.

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